At Manhattan’s Thyme Bar, Cocktails Channel an Enchanted Forest
If you want a cold beer or a glass of wine, Jeremy Le Blanche, the beverage director at Manhattan’s Thyme Bar, is happy to deliver. But ordering either at the space, a 1920s gambling den-turned-21st-century speakeasy, would be a missed opportunity. Since it opened, in March 2020, and especially since the arrival of Le Blanche that summer, the underground lounge has developed an eye-popping array of botanical, multisensory cocktails that translate art into drinks.
Though Le Blanche left his native Toulon, France, and the surrounding lavender fields of Provence, ten years ago, nature and its floral fragrances remain strong influences in his work, as do images from an eclectic selection of Instagram accounts, such as @art.sequence‘s avant-garde illustrations, @patisserietoday‘s quirky baked goods, and @yummyfood_foryouu‘s inventive food porn. Le Blanche also seeks out master perfumers—recent connections include those from Le Labo and Saint Laurent—to discuss the similarities between combining scents and combining flavors. “I have so much to learn,” he says, adding that the dark, dramatic looks by fashion designers Anthony Vaccarello and Alexander McQueen influenced his most recent libations.
After pouring his way around the world in positions at restaurants including London’s German Gymnasium, Sydney’s (now closed) Ananas Bar & Brasserie, and Lausanne’s two-Michelin starred Anne Sophie Pic, Le Blanche arrived in Manhattan three years ago, eager to explore the visual creativity he learned on the European bar scene. “We don’t just make drinks at Thyme Bar,” he says. “We want to simulate travel through cocktails—to disconnect our guests from the metropolis above, and invite them to walk into our forest.”
Drinks on the bar’s more accessible Le Jardin menu may be based on the familiar, but each is served with intentional interactions between customer and cocktail, always designed to extend the experience beyond taste. New concoctions for the spring include the Flower Bomb, made with an especially floral I.P.A. from Long Island City and cooked to extract the gas, along with Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, orange blossom, and spicy Arbikie Chilli Vodka. The beverage arrives in a glass that resembles a just-opened flower, garnished with real rose petals and a wooden spoon to scoop up cherry-colored foam that, when sipped along with the liquid, tastes like the vessel it’s served in. Seemingly more sedate, Forest H2O channels a Negroni but incorporates Patsch Blanco Tequila, an especially aromatic roots mastia, and comes in a wine glass surrounded by a diorama of moss.
A second list of cocktails, Floriography (a term referring to the means of cryptological communication through the use or arrangement of flowers), invites guests deeper into Thyme Bar’s enchanted forest by providing more complexity in terms of both flavor and visuals. Among its offerings: Trumpet of Death, named for the French mushroom, turns up shrouded in three ceramic mushrooms growing from a bed of faux greenery. Intended for being sipped directly off the plate, the drink is made with marjoram-infused vodka, dill-weed cordial, and carrot juice, and is accompanied by a smoking, cinnamon-scented pine cone.
Three dollars more gets you a veritable acrobatics display: Like actual raindrops, Coconino Rain, a floral libation inspired by Arizona’s sprawling Coconino National Forest, comes down from above in a ceramic vessel—hanging by a faux leaf–covered rope that extends from a single hook placed above every stool and seat in the intimate, low-lit lounge. Made with salted caramel–infused Tanduay Gold rum, aquavit, tangerine juice, prickly pear, and lime, the drink is Le Blanche’s take on a classic tiki cocktail. He finds particular delight in the smiles that follow its unexpected delivery. “That’s why I do this job,” he says.